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Can Turkeys Fly?

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Eastern wild turkeys. CREDIT: Maslowski/National Wild Turkey Federation

While the turkey you cook for Thanksgiving has never been airborne, wild turkeys can fly. Apparently not fast or high enough, however. Hunting by early Americans brought the wild turkey population to a low of just 30,000 birds back in the 1930s. Conservation efforts since then, including the release of pen-raised birds back to the wild, has restored the population to about 7 million today.

Wild turkeys feed on the ground, which may have something to do with the myth that they can't fly. The have to fly, however, because they roost in trees at night. Some accounts say they can soar up to 55 mph for short bursts.

Oh, and the Thanksgiving turkey: It is so grossly fattened up in the farm that it has about as much chance of flying as you do after your pumpkin pie.

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Robert Roy Britt
Rob was a writer and editor at Space.com starting in 1999. He served as managing editor of Live Science at its launch in 2004. He is now Chief Content Officer overseeing media properties for the sites’ parent company, Purch. Prior to joining the company, Rob was an editor at The Star-Ledger in New Jersey, and in 1998 he was founder and editor of the science news website ExploreZone. He has a journalism degree from Humboldt State University in California.